So I’m writing y’all a little bit different of a post than usual. Typically I’ll pose a question like “Do you need a wetsuit” or “What’s the point of cycling gloves” and attempt to provide a somewhat educated response through the bespectacled eyeballs of a frugal dude.
Now that’s great and all but anyone who studies economics knows that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. And just like having to sit through a timeshare presentation for a free Pink Jeep tour, readers of this blog are subject to my armchair philosophy and lame attempts at humor before I finally reveal my answer to the question they forgot they had.
But that makes it fun for me and I hope you dig it too. Further, I hope that you share my ridiculousness with all of your friends and followers and help create a legion of Cheap Athletes banded together in our unmatched, ugly gear pieced together from the clearance racks at Old Navy and TJ Maxx.
So with that said, there’s not a lot of philosophy here. It basically boils down to “I wanna get a good deal and, if it sucks, return it easily.”
I’m sure there are lots of other places with similar/slightly better deals but I try not to buy a ton of gear so I don’t have a million go-to places.
And here we go, I like to get my stuff from:
The back of my drawers and closets
Before going out and buying anything you should check your stash at home. Quite often I’ll go “shopping” in my closets and dressers and blurt out “man this is sweet, I forgot about this.” Given my inferior folding skills items often get pushed to the back of my drawers and I tend to wear the last laundered item over and over.
Need a fancy jacket that you really, really don’t wanna pay for? Ask for it for a birthday, holiday or some gift giving occasion. Just don’t ask for it from your spouse because then you’re technically still paying for it.
Type of gear: Running stuff, shoes and sometimes cycling jackets.
Pro(s): Low prices, coupon codes, free 2-day shipping, free returns and great customer service.
CA’s tip: Coupons Runblog10 and FB15D get you 10% off regularly priced items or 15% off clearance items. Continuously monitor the clearance section and wait for end of season sales to scoop up, for example, a $100 pair of Nike thermal tights for $35!
Performance Bike & Nashbar
Type of gear: Cycling.
Pro(s): Cheaper than your local bike shop. Performance Exclusive items offer good value and the Bargain Bin and Returned Items sections at Nashbar has some good stuff.
Con(s): Unfree returns and shipping is not always free.
CA’s tip: Both are owned by the same company so the prices are almost always in sync. Sign up for the newsletter and wait for sales which offer big discounts and/or free shipping. Look for items labeled “Performance Exclusive” as they are made solely for Performance Bike and are ON SALE ALL THE TIME. Wait for these sales and never pay full price for an exclusive item.
Type of gear: Anything a human may need.
Pro(s): It’s amazon and its amazingness is well documented.
Con(s): They’re destroying your favorite mom and pop shop.
CA’s tip: Use it and save moola.
Local bike shop
Type of gear: Bikes and biking stuff.
Pro(s) & Con(s): My in-depth analysis here.
CA’s tip: Stop by occasionally and show your shop some love. Be careful for scumbags who sneak in extra items to your purchase. Join a cycling or triathlon club, even if you don’t plan to train with them, as they often receive discounts at the local shops. And don’t forget the true beauty of the brick and mortar store – you can haggle them down!
Old Navy & Target
Type of gear: Mainly running clothes.
Pro(s): Pretty cheap stuff that lasts.
Con(s): It’s not higher-end gear and the non-sale prices seem to be creeping up. Target’s cycling accessories are not recommended.
CA’s tip: Wait for clearance sales. Old Navy pretty much gives stuff away and I’ve scored items like a $1 headband in the back corner of the store. The MSRP on a lot of C9 wear at Target isn’t cheap enough but when they go on sale, they do it right!
Type of gear: Mainly running clothes and those Puma socks!
Pro(s): Higher-end brands (Nike, RBX, Under Armour, The North Face, etc.) at steep discounts. Amazing selection for women athletes.
Con(s): They almost never have what you actually went in there for but you always seem to find something else! The men’s selection is noticeably less amazing than the women’s. Good chance you’re getting ugly colors, like urban camouflage, that nobody was interested in paying full price for.
CA’s tip: Stop by occasionally and check it out. Be patient and wait for an amazing deal, like $15 Nike running shorts, and buy as many as you think you’ll ever need because you may never see them again.
Type of gear: Hiking, backpacking, cycling and running.
Pro(s): Great gear. The online garage and quarterly in-store garage sales offer some huge deals on higher-end stuff. Fantastic return policy and great customer service. Staff is well-educated and super cool. REI store brands (REI, Novara, Co-Op Cycles, EVRGRN, etc.) are affordable and of excellent quality.
Con(s): Will spend a bit more as they carry higher-end stuff. Not a lot of clearance items for medium sized dudes.
CA’s tip: Choose ship to store for free shipping and sometimes further discounts when you pick them up. Become a member for dividends on regularly priced items and wait for 20% off sales to make big purchases. Stand in line for the garage sales because all the good stuff is gone in 20 minutes and tackle someone if you have to. Opening an REI credit card gets you a $100 gift card after 1 purchase of, for example, a $1.50 stroopwafel.
Eastern Mountain Sports
Type of gear: Mainly hiking and backpacking.
Pro(s): Great gear and amazing rewards program. They randomly mail you straight store cash and coupons and constantly have great sales. Similar to REI, the staff is well-educated and super cool and their store brand is affordable and excellent.
Con(s): Smaller selection than REI.
CA’s tip: EMS has come into some financial trouble lately as its parent company declared bankruptcy and was forced to shut down a bunch of stores. For the remaining stores that translates to: SALES ALL THE FLIPPING TIME! Get your coupons (common one is $25 off $100) and wait for big purchases or buy a few items at once to get that discount. Quite often they’ll offer DOUBLE rewards during sales unlike REI who offers 0 rewards on sale and clearance items. I love this store!
Craigslist, Ebay, Letgo, Garage Sales
Type of gear: Used
Pro(s): Can score awesome underpriced items like a $20 vintage Fuji road bike or $18 Ultegra road pedals!
Con(s): Ain’t returning anything and there are some dicey and uninformed people out there selling garbage, setting bad prices and trying to scam you.
CA’s tip: My in-depth used bike buying tips here. Beware of scams, meet in public places and bring your most muscular friend with you to the pickup.
Pro(s): Really low prices and pretty decent gear.
Con(s): Fairly sporadic in what they keep in stock so not dependable. Except for socks, they always have them there.
Type of gear: Wetsuits and transition bags.
Pro(s): Solid and affordable wetsuit that I reviewed here.
Con(s): Nothing really.
CA’s tip: Use my coupon code C-CHEAPATHLETE for 60% OFF! I get a little thank you from them but I reached out to them because I liked their product – not the other way around.
And there we go, happy bargain hunting!
Like this $1,100 mountain bike I got at an REI garage sale for $400 – Booyah!